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The Miami Dolphins season begins…and might end…on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts

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There is no denying the importance of Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins season begins…and might end…on Sunday.

But before I get into why the Dolphins season may end as early as Sunday, let’s look at the AFC playoff picture as it will help explain the situation the Dolphins find themselves in.

The Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers sit atop the division with a 9-2 and 7-2-1 record, respectively. However, you have the New England Patriots, Houston Texans and Los Angeles Chargers right behind them at 7-3. As of today, the Baltimore Ravens hold the sixth seed with a 5-5 record.

You then look at all those teams in the hunt and that’s where the other 5-5 records come into play. This includes the Dolphins, Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans. Behind them at 4-6 are the Denver Broncos.

This is your AFC playoff picture, and therefore, Sunday’s game against the Colts is a pivotal matchup. If the Dolphins win, they hold the tiebreaker. If they lose, they’ll then fall behind the Colts and the Bengals due to their loss in Cincinnati earlier this season.

No matter what way you cut it, this game may decide the season for Miami.

That’s because if they lose, they will essentially need to win out. Their remaining games are against the Buffalo Bills, Patriots, Minnesota Vikings, Jaguars and then again against the Bills. Can the Dolphins win out? Sure, any team can. But the Dolphins have done little to inspire such a thought becoming a reality. While the Bills and possibly the Jaguars present an easy matchup, playing the Patriots and Vikings is no easy task.

And yes, the Dolphins realize the meaning of this game on Sunday. Although they have downplayed it leading into Sunday, and although they will downplay it if they lose, they know how much is on the line when they step on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium to face the red-hot Colts.

The good news for Miami? They get back their starting quarterback in Ryan Tannehill Their already depleted team took advantage of the bye week to get healthy. Laremy Tunsil will be starting. Kenny Stills is ready to ramp up and go. There are still some questions about the likes of DeVante Parker, Kenyan Drake and Ja’Wuan James, but for the most part, the Dolphins are ready.

They’ll need to put it all together against the Colts, who have won their last four games. If they win, it’s a huge step towards making the playoffs a reality and will give the momentum before hosting the Bills and Patriots at home. Lose and the Dolphins will have the tough task of winning out the rest of the way.

Follow Matthew Cannata on Twitter: @CannataNFL